|Kimberly Christensen stood on a massive branch of a silk tree, newly designated an “exceptional” tree, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson/ Associated Press)|
Seattle’s proposed rules for tree removal meet opposition
SEATTLE — Tree lovers are fighting proposed city rules that would remove Seattle’s protections for large, “exceptional’’ trees and do not include a requirement that property owners get a permit to remove a tree.
“We’re the Emerald City because of the trees,’’ said Cass Turnbull, founder of PlantAmnesty, a Seattle-based nonprofit, who favors a permit system as a way to slow down tree-cutting and give people pause. “Trees grow here very easily so we tend to take them for granted.’’
Towering Douglas firs and lush urban parks helped earned Seattle the nickname Emerald City, so it’s not surprising that felling a tree can prompt heated responses.
A judge was fined $500,000 for cutting down more than 120 cherry and maple trees in a city park for better views, and residents fought for years to save a mature grove of 100 Douglas firs from being cleared for development.
The proposed tree regulations come at a time when the city is trying to expand its tree canopy to 30 percent by 2037, and a city audit last year called for improvements in the city’s stewardship of trees.
Seattle’s tree coverage shrank from 40 percent in 1972 to about 23 percent in 2007.
The City Council passed interim tree rules last year and directed city planners to come up with new private tree regulations, now out for public review. The City Council isn’t likely to take up the issue until next year.
Many communities, such as Kirkland, Wash., and Miami-Dade County, have a tree-removal permit system.
Some, like Atlanta, require property owners to pay to replace every tree they remove that’s more than 6 inches in diameter and not hazardous.